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Side-shielded (SS) read heads were fabricated, and their magnetic track widths were calculated and measured. The measurements in longitudinal recording show that SS heads exhibit sharper profiles compared with side-unshielded heads. To examine the effect of side shielding, we studied the dependence of the magnetic read width on write density using calculations and experiments. The calculations indicate that the SS head can reduce the skirt of the microtrack profile even at low densities, while the side-unshielded head cannot. This result was qualitatively found in an experiment. We also studied the SS effect in perpendicular recording and found better performance. The calculations predict that SS can strongly reduce the skirt of the microtrack profile even in perpendicular recording. We observed a sharper profile in an SS head compared with a side-unshielded one.